Saturday, 26 July 2014

Breakfast at The Wolseley

They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so you might as well make an occasion of it every now and then. The Wolseley is my place to go to when I'm in need of morning sustenance, something more than my usual fayre of desiccated chipboard and vapid crispbreads, something that will get me through the day, whilst I am trip-trotting around town.

"Breakfast is everything. The beginning, the first thing. It is the mouthful that is the commitment to a new day, a continuing life," writes A. A. Gill in his book, 'Breakfast at The Wolseley'

(Click Images to Enlarge)

We were in fact up with the larks, to see the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy but after spying The Wolseley from across the road I simply couldn't walk past. It calls out to me you see, like the dawn siren, sitting atop a rock of Eggs Benedict, within a demitasse of foaming espresso, luring me in to feed.

The Wolseley was originally born as the grand car showroom for Wolseley Motors in 1919, going on to become the No.160 Piccadilly branch of Barclays Bank from 1927 until 1999, then becoming a grand European styled cafe in 2003.

Renown for being Lucian Freud's favourite dinner venue, I glanced across to table 32 wondering what he might have ordered tonight. In my head I pre-ordered the Coulibiac of Salmon for him, we then opted for the Full English, with lashings of Americano before crossing the road to waddle around the Royal Academy.

I couldn't choose between these two photos whilst capturing the front elevation of the building. I love the first image but when the traffic lights turn red outside the Ritz Hotel, they release a throng of tourists and these four dapper chaps doing their rendition of the Abbey Road crossing. I love it. I love London. I love you all. Good Morn!

160 Piccadilly

Friday, 18 July 2014

Great Fosters

When it was suggested that we pop out for a spot of lunch on Friday, I didn't need asking twice.
I knew the perfect place within striking distance, that had long been on my hit list.

Great Fosters is an immaculately preserved grade one listed building set amongst 50 acres of incredible gardens and parkland in Egham, Surrey.

Built in 1555 and used as a Royal hunting lodge by Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I and the Wizard Earl - Henry Percy, Great Fosters has remained a stately home for a plethora of nobility. The house is now a prestigious 43 bedroom romantic luxury hotel. Sympathetically converted in the 1930s and possessing a wealth of beautiful architectural detailing including the rare oak stairwell, stone mullion and transom windows, Jacobean fireplaces and the notable wicket door through which you enter the property one person at a time.

The ornate, dark plasterwork ceiling of the main hall
owes its rich burnished patina to centuries of log burning fires.

The Tudor Room is one of two restaurants at Great Fosters and offers exquisite dining in a modern British style with a soup├žon of Asian and Gallic influence, served by an incredibly dedicated team that excel in the art of discreet service.

Head Chef Nicholas Chappel joined The Tudor Room earlier this year, direct from L'Ortolan where he maintained a Michelin star during his four year residency.

After warming up with a couple of Mai Tai's on the terrace we were led into The Tudor Room by our host.

To begin, an Amuse Bouche of  Cucumber Gazpacho with Radish & Olive Gel

A first course of Goats Cheese Mousse, Green Tomatoes & Sorbet

(Via Instagram)

and Tuna, Sesame, Watermelon & Seaweed

(Via Instagram)

When the main course arrived I had no inclination other than to chow down so there is no photographic evidence of the deliciousness that was...

Goosnargh Duck, Gooseberries & Ginger
Rump of Lamb, Tomato Jam and Gem Lettuce

A pre-dessert of Mango & Coconut 'Egg' realigns the palate in preparation for
a dessert of re-imagined genius by Sous Chef David Balastegui

Peach Melba, Champagne & Raspberry Sorbet

To finish 
Euoropean Cheeses with Figs, Cherry Compote, Membrillo, Champagne Jelly & Great Fosters Honey

Coffee & Petit Fours
I'm still dreaming of the Strawberry & Black pepper pate de fuie and Lime leaf Macaron.

After being rolled out into the open air, like a pair of Oompah Loompahs, we were given an escorted tour of the kitchen garden glasshouses to see where they grow a multitude of heirloom vegetables, salad leaves and herbs that supply the hotel. A leisurely walk was a welcome idea after such a feast.

W H Romaine Walker and his partner Gilbert Jenkins worked together in the 1920s to establish the exceptional arts and crafts gardens within the grounds. 

With their clipped yew hedges, elaborate topiary and intricate formal parterres, they offer the most gracious setting for a romantic wedding and an idyllic place for visitors to relax in privacy.

In the summer months, Afternoon Tea is served on the terraces overlooking historic gardens and the tranquil Saxon Moat which dates back to 500AD. 

What better view could you ask for whilst nibbling on cucumber sandwiches, than watching swans glide elegantly under a Japanese bridge that is gently clothed in perfumed wisteria.

One of the four secret gardens at Great Fosters oozes a magical charm. Within its walls lies a small plaque that only adds to its beauty but I'll leave that for you to discover for yourself.

Can you believe that Great Fosters is only 30 mins from the Central London.
Its my secret new favourite place to escape to.
Lets just keep it between the two of us though.

Stroude Road
TW20 9UR

Saturday, 12 July 2014

The Lost Giants of Heligan

Whilst on our recent trip travelling through Cornwall, I overheard whispering tales of colossal giants that secretly reside in the depths of The Lost Gardens of Heligan. You know the score by now, my senses are finely tuned to anything magical and I'm always ready for an adventure. I called out to Hercules to get the car ready and we headed south from our hotel perched high above the sands of Carlyon Bay to see what the fuss was all about.

When the gardeners of the grand Heligan estate were called up to fight during the onset of the first world war, the beautifully maintained 400-year-old gardens were sadly left behind, inevitably falling into disrepair, becoming rampantly overgrown and forgotten for over 70 years.

It wasn't until the 1990's that the layers of untamed vegetation were peeled back, revealing the embers of glory that lay hidden for decades. Twenty years of painstaking restoration and love has been poured back into what is now one of Britain's most loved gardens.

It didn't take long to uncover evidence upon our arrival that this was indeed a Giant's playground. I was reminded of a similar investigation we embarked upon a year or two ago, to find the elusive Dragons of Wales and wondered, would I really get to meet a giant on this quest?

There was no turning back, I was here to find a giant and a giant I would find.

My first witness was a rather shifty looking character who I found nonchalantly standing in the middle of Heligan's Kitchen Garden. I quizzed him as to the whereabouts of said giants.

As you can clearly see, he was staying very tight-lipped.

Undeterred, I pressed on in my search, up hillsides and down valleys.

I looked in every nook, cranny and bee bole, but there were no giants here.

I searched within a clump of rustling Crocosmia growing on a shallow mound but to no avail.

I scoured every conservatory but there were no giants here.

I discovered the prettiest well and stuck my head over the edge calling out "Coooey" but my own echo was the only reply. There were no giants here.

I quizzed the cows grazing in the fields about the whereabouts of giants and in doing so, accidentally leaned on an electric fence that borders the pasture. We'll just skim over the details, suffice to say I don't think a cow ever heard such language!

I interviewed the flowers, Magnolia, Crinodendron, Hydrangea one and all, but there were no giants here.

Click on Images to Enlarge

 One of the many dedicated gardeners that help to keep the magic of Heligan alive, just shook his head and carried on with his weeding, there were no giants here.

The fountain of the Italian garden sings of peace and tranquillity, but not a giant in sight.

 Whilst noseying around some outbuildings, I discovered a wonderful collection of antique gardening tools. Or maybe the implements that a giant would use, to grind you know what, to make his bread.

I checked behind mounds of ivy and ferns but there were no giants to be seen.

Under fruit trees, down into the jungle valley and under tree ferns, I left no leaf unturned.

Were these two crossing the valley or running from thundering footsteps?

The towering foliage of Gunnera manicata would be the perfect spot in which one could shelter from the harsh midday sun, but there were no giants here.

I walked the length and breadth of the Lost gardens of Heligan, until I had to rest my weary feet. I traversed bridges, talked to the animals and colluded with the flowers but search as I might, I must admit defeat.
There were obviously no giants here...
...Were there?